Some Portuguese sights and eatsPosted: October 7, 2012
Well I have actually been back from Portugal for a few weeks now but have been rather stuck in a black hole of stressy hecticness ’til now so haven’t gotten around to posting. The sunshine definitely faded far away to a dark corner of my mind pretty much as soon as we got back as the rain in Manchester poured and poured. And poured. And continued to pour some more. This weekend however, we’ve finally been blessed with some crisp sunny autumnal days. Which is just as well as I was about to leave the country.
Due to a last minute change of plans, we had just 24 hours in Lisbon (so of course our flight was delayed, and we had a suitcase which failed to turn up on the luggage belt…) so I sadly didn’t have time to sample much food in the city. On arriving on Saturday night, after trying and failing to locate our awol bag, we headed out for some food. I ordered cod as I knew this was a Portuguese speciality, being located on the Atlantic coast as they are. Also, the Portuguese for cod, bacalhau, was one of the few words I could pick out from the menu, and so I pounced on it! The cod came served with new potatoes and vegetables. Unfortunately it was very oily and didn’t seem to taste of much else to me…
I was disappointed as I really wanted to have an amazing meal on our our only night in Lisbon. Still, the beers were a-flowing and the courtyard had pretty twinkly fairylights!
In the morning we awoke and spent a happy hour or two wandering the intricate winding streets of the Alfama.
Soon it was time for a coffee and sugar hit and I knew exactly what was in order – a pastel de nata or two! Pastel de natas are Portuguese custard tarts, we ate these all throughout our time in Portugal, not just Lisbon, and soon discovered that every cafe makes theirs slightly differently. Some were served hot, some cold, some dusted with icing sugar, some with cinammon, some slightly charred on top, some with almonds. All were crispy, flaky, creamy, sweet and satisfying! I could have eaten them ’til the cows came home… Rumour has it these delicious delicacies, along with so many other tasty things, were first created by monks. Clever chaps.
One of the things I liked most about Lisbon was all the beautiful ceramic tiles covering the buildings. Called azulejos, these are used to cover the walls, sometimes floors and even ceilings of buildings all over Portugal, but we saw particularly a lot in Lisbon. As far as I know, these come from the Moorish influence on the country and are used as a way to protect buildings and control temperature.
Other sights during our time in Portugal included charming streets bursting with colourful flowers, their white washed houses lending a distinctively Mediterranean feel in Obidos
fields and vineyards growing tasty local produce on our walks near my aunt’s house
We also saw fish drying in the sun
One of the things we missed out on during our short time in Lisbon was experiencing ginjinha bars – ginjinha is a Portuguese speciality liquor made from cherries. I was very happy therefore when we discovered street side shops in Obidos selling ginjinha in chocolate cups – touristy, yes, but frankly, when it involves alcohol and chocolate who cares?!
It was soon time for some r&r in a lovely villa in the heart of rural Alentejo. Our only neighbours were a local shepherd and the goats and cows he herded from field to field each day. I loved listening to the chime and clang of their bells in the morning and watching the shepherd go about his day, thinking about a simpler way of life, away from all the hurly burly of modern working life in the UK…
As we were in the middle of nowhere, there wasn’t much opportunity to eat out so we mainly contented ourselves with tasty barbecues. We ate delicious barbecued meaty herby sausages, juicy pork ribs, succulent chicken, flavoursome salmon and chargrilled courgette all served with lots of big salads and tomatoes covered in sea salt and balsamic vinegar…mmmm…. A 20 minute drive did take us to one eatery however, one side was a road-side cafe, the other done out as a restaurant… It was a little strange to say the least but the food was good!
I ate some incredibly juicy flavoursome garlicy chicken with a massive tomato salad
The others ate juicy steak in Roquefort sauce, ‘speciality Portuguese steak’ which was steak surrounded by crispy potatoes in an almost gravy-like sauce, and sirloin steak cooked on a hot stone at the table
We also ate lunch at a beachside cafe where everything was barbecued just a few feet away, tantalsising our tastebuds as we smelt it cooking. Cue a massive pile of tasty marinated chicken, made all the yummier for the tang of salt in the air from the waves crashing in just a few hundred metres from the table. Perfection.